A/N: The characters depicted in this story are the creation of J.K. Rowling. The setting is ultimately mine. Written for LJ.com Harry/Ginny Fic-a-fest.
It was, quite simply, a plain, black box. It measured no bigger than one metre by half metre by half. The sides were worn, and the corners reinforced with small metal protectors. Tiny, flaking, gold-embossed letters, PJE, were written above the dull, brass lock. An envelope with my name and address scrawled across it was attached to the top with duct tape.
My wife, Ginny, and I had come home from a visit with her family and found this chest sitting on the front porch.
It was a beautiful Saturday in October. The sun was shining and the weather, though brisk, was pleasantly cool. A good day for flying, actually. The leaves on the trees had begun to change from green to multi-shades of red, orange and gold. Our tiny cottage in Ottery St. Catchpole was neat and tidy and located on a quiet street in the small Muggle town. Living where we do, in such close proximity to the Burrow, allows us the opportunity to walk to and from Ginny’s parents on nice days. And even though we’re living in a Muggle town and are quite accustomed to seeing the Muggle postman, it was shocking to find this chest on our front stoop.
Pulling our wands, we approached it cautiously, since neither one of us were expecting a package. I walked up to get a closer look at the envelope on top, realized it was addressed to me, and it was in Dudley Dursley's handwriting.
"Blimey!" I called to Ginny. "I don't believe it! This is from Dudley."
"Dudley? As in your cousin Dudley? The prat who didn't give you the time of day growing up? What does he want?" Ginny practically spat out as she walked up the steps to stand next to me, one hand on her hip; her other hand still gripping her wand.
“Dunno," I said, as I studied the package. Pointing my wand at the strange box, I muttered “Aparinvisitus” and watched. Since the charm revealed nothing unusual about the package, I untaped the letter and began to open it.
"Why don't we go inside, Harry, and I'll put on tea," Ginny said as she lowered her wand and started toward the door. She unlocked the house and held the door open for me as I followed her, carrying the letter and trunk.
I set the trunk down in our parlour and began reading over the letter, while my wife headed to the kitchen. When she returned moments later, with a tray full of tea and biscuits, I could tell she was surprised at the look of shock that must have been on my face.
“What is it, Harry?” she asked. Fear of the answer could be heard in her voice.
“I don’t believe it,” I muttered. “Aunt Petunia bequeathed this to me? But why?”
“What?” Ginny asked again incredulously.
“Here…read this. You won’t believe it,” I told her, shaking my head as I handed the letter to her. She placed the tea tray on the table, took the letter from my hand, and began reading it to herself, as I looked the trunk over again.
Mum died from cancer about a month ago, and when we read her will this week, we found out that she left this trunk to you. I can’t find a key to open it, or I would have been in it to find out what my mum would leave to you, of all people. We all know she wouldn’t associate with freaks like you and your parents unless forced to. Since we can’t find the key to open it, I’ve sent it to you, knowing that with your abnormality you’ll get into it somehow, if you want to. I just don’t understand why she’d leave anything to you. You were nothing but a menace to our family. I don’t care to have any further contact with you.
“Well, will wonders never cease?” Ginny shook her head as she finished the letter. Looking up at me, she continued, “Of all things.”
“Yeah, kind of what I thought, too. I never expected to hear from the Dursleys again after leaving Hogwarts. Honestly, I never wanted to hear from them again. I didn’t think they even knew where I was, let alone cared.” I glanced down at the trunk and back at the letter. “I would have expected them to have chucked this in the rubbish if they couldn’t have opened it. I’m surprised they sent it around to me. I wonder what possessed Aunt Petunia to bequeath this to me in the first place?”
“Well, shall we see if we can open it and find out what she’s left you?" Ginny said, as she looked closer at the lock.
“Absolutely," I answered. "I’m dying to see what's in here and what Dudley would want to get his hands on.”
We both chuckled as we knelt down in front of the small trunk. Trying the latch, I found it locked as Dudley had said. Rising to pull my wand out of my pocket, I pointed it at the small lock.
I heard a distinct click, and the latch flipped open.
As I knelt down again beside the trunk and reached for the lid to begin to open it, Ginny gently touched my sleeve. “Are you ready to face whatever’s in here, Harry? I mean, there could be anything in here from your past, your mum’s, or even Petunia’s. She treated you so awful for so many years, are you ready to see what she sent you?” The concern Ginny had for me was clearly evident in her beautiful, deep-brown eyes and her soft, sweet voice.
I covered her hand with mine. “Well,” I replied, “I know most things from the Dursleys aren’t pleasant, but, yeah, I’m ready for this. I need to know what was so important that Petunia would leave it to me, her dratted, abnormal nephew.” I smiled at my wife and squeezed her hand affectionately. She smiled back and nodded.
I slowly lifted the lid. The air inside the trunk was musty, as if it hadn’t been opened in years. Knowing Petunia the way I did, I was fairly certain it hadn’t been. She wouldn’t have kept any of my childhood things – not that I’d had much to begin with – to give to me later. No, that wasn’t in her nature. Anything of worth that I’d had, I got after I found out I was a wizard, and I’d made certain I’d had it with me when I left the Dursleys. No, by the smell of this chest, it had sat undisturbed in their attic for many, many years.
The item on top appeared to be a small, blue blanket with a letter tucked inside it. I gingerly took it out of the trunk and placed it between Ginny and me. I picked up the fragile letter, pulled it out of its envelope and began reading it.
“Unbelievable, Gin,” I whispered, as I looked at my wife. “This is the letter from when I was a baby. When I was left on the Dursleys’ steps. From Dumbledore.” I stumbled through my words and knew I had to have had a look of total disbelief on my face. Never in my wildest dreams had I expected to ever see anything from my past, let alone this letter.
Carefully taking the sheet of parchment, Ginny skimmed through it. “Dumbledore did tell Petunia all the details of what happened. And look,” she said as she held the letter for me to see, “he explained in great detail the purpose of a blood bond and why it was so important for her to keep you. Unbelievable.” Ginny looked up into my eyes as she handed the note back to me. “So this blanket must have been the one –"
“I was wrapped in when they found me that morning. I can’t believe it. I assumed Uncle Vernon burnt anything that was remotely associated with me. Wouldn’t want to have anything in the house that could possibly be abnormal, would he?” I answered bitterly from all the years of mistrust and abuse.
“Well,” Ginny said, matter-of-factly, “we’ll certainly keep that.” She plucked the blanket from me and folded it up. “We can use it when we have children.” She smiled at me. “You have so few keepsakes from your childhood; it’s good to have something. To think…this was actually from your life before the Dursleys.”
“Keepsakes? What keepsakes?” I laughed. “This is it, outside of what I purchased for myself once I started at Hogwarts. The Dursleys certainly wouldn’t have bought me anything.”
I looked into the trunk again and brought out a book. Turning it over in my hands, I looked at the title, embossed in gold. The book had many dog-eared pages, giving it the appearance that it had been read many times.
“What’s that?” Ginny asked, looking over my shoulder.
“A book. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott,” I replied, turning the book over in my hands again.
“Oh! I’ve heard of that! It’s by an American author. Hermione’s read it and loaned it to me once. I started it, but never got a chance to finish it,” my wife said, excited. “It was quite good, but with homework and all, I never had much chance to do any pleasure reading.”
“Look at this,” I said, after I opened the book and looked inside the front cover. Written in very neat penmanship was a note:
To my flowers,
With love from Mum, 14 July 1969
“A book from your grandmother to your mum and aunt? I can’t believe it.” Ginny said as she touched my hand.
“Me either,” I murmured back, too surprised to say much else.
Handing the book to Ginny, who began paging through it, I looked back into the trunk, which had now become a small treasure trove. I next pulled out what looked like a small, leather-covered photo album. Flipping it open, I saw a picture of two small girls, hugging each other on the front page. Although the figures didn’t move as they would in wizard photographs, the smiles of joy on the small girls’ faces could clearly be seen. The inscription on the page, written in the same very neat, concise writing as was in the book, read: “My Flowers: Petunia and Lily.”
“Oh my goodness, Harry, these are pictures of your mum as a child!”
I looked at Ginny, clearly not believing my eyes. Speechless, I nodded my head and flipped the page. Pictures of two little girls, both smiling and clearly giggling were seen, holding hands, hugging, and playing with each other. Under each picture was a caption telling which child was Lily and which was Petunia, what they were doing, and how old they were.
“Your grandmother did a wonderful job labelling these pictures,” Ginny said, clearly as amazed as I was at this find.
Page after page of pictures, beginning when they were babies, and continuing on until Petunia was thirteen and Lily was eleven. Birthday parties, trips to the park and zoo, being silly for the camera—dozens of Muggle photographs of two pretty little girls laughing and playing. The pictures abruptly stopped after the one that appeared to be of Lily’s eleventh birthday party, even though there were several blank pages left.
“That must be about the time Mum got her letter for Hogwarts,” I said, looking through the back of the album to make certain we hadn’t missed any pictures. “I reckon their relationship changed as soon as Petunia realized what Mum was – a witch.”
“Makes you sort of wonder why there are no more pictures of either of them,” Ginny said, flipping back to a picture of the girls when they were babies. “I mean your grandmother could have taken pictures of them individually, even if they weren’t getting along.”
“Who knows? I reckon Petunia didn’t want her picture taken anymore, or maybe she destroyed the ones of her and Mum after this," I said, shrugging.
"Well, it looks like they got along for at least a little while," Ginny said.
"Yeah, the way Petunia talked while I was growing up, her and Mum never got along.” I replied, looking over the pictures again. “I'm so surprised to see any pictures of them together."
I continued to page through the photos – amazed at the pictures of the little girls who went on to become my mum and my aunt. At least for a time, they had loved each other and the thought warmed my heart.
"Your mum was a beautiful little girl,” Ginny said, breaking the silence. “It's amazing how different she and her sister looked. Both were pretty girls." Ginny studied one of the pictures of Lily and Petunia from when they were eleven and thirteen.
“Yeah, I wonder what happened to Aunt Petunia. She certainly wasn’t that pretty when I was living with her,” I stated, rather dryly.
“Harry!” Ginny said, trying to suppress her laughter. “That’s not funny, and you know it. You just always saw the bad side of her, so she didn’t appear to be pretty to you.” She looked at me and giggled, unable to control her laughter any longer.
I winked and smiled at my wife as we sat and continued to look through these photos for quite a spell.
Breaking the silence, I said, "It's just amazing to see these. I mean, I've seen pictures of my mum and dad from their Hogwarts days and from when they were first married, but I never expected to see pictures of either of them as children." I looked at the picture Ginny was studying before looking into her chocolate-brown eyes. She smiled at me as I took the album and held it in my arms to my chest. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Never in a million years did I think I would ever have these types of things from my past. This was, indeed, a dream come true. And if the Dursleys knew how happy this made me, they would have taken it away in a heartbeat.
"What else is in the box, Harry?" Ginny said, interrupting my thoughts.
I opened my eyes and reached into the trunk again. I pulled out a thin, yellowed piece of paper. Studying it, I said, "This looks like a newspaper article from a Muggle paper."
"What's it about?" Ginny asked, as she touched my hand.
"It's about my grandparents’ deaths,” I answered slowly, as I continued to scan down the article. “It appears that Voldemort got to Mum's parents too. The paper said that they didn't know how Mum's parents died. It says that they looked like they had been scared to death. I'm betting that Avada Kadarva was used on them, and either the Death Eaters or Voldemort himself killed them. There were no witnesses." I shook my head. "It's no wonder Aunt Petunia hated all things that had to do with magic. Not only did her sister go off to Hogwarts and leave her at home alone, but magic killed her parents."
"Is there a date on the article?" Ginny asked, as she glanced over the clipping that I held out for her to see.
"30 September 1981. About a month before my parents were killed."
"So basically, your mum goes off to Hogwarts, your aunt hears how wonderful it is to have a witch in the family, her parents are murdered because of your parents, and then your mum and dad are killed," Ginny said, clicking off the events on her delicate fingers.
"Yeah, and in that span of time, Petunia gave birth to the human beach ball. Then I was left on her doorstep, giving her two children that were a year old.” I stopped a moment, and shook my head, “You know, no wonder she was always so angry. Everything she had known had been thrown into total disarray. And she and Vernon were very much into having total control over their lives and surroundings."
"Yes, but as angry as she was, that didn't give her the right to take it out on you,” Ginny said, looking very angry herself. “You were only a baby, Harry. You had no control over what happened to her family."
"True, but at least you can understand why she was the way she was,” I said, looking into Ginny’s eyes. “It may have not been right, but at least you could see what caused her anger. It was Uncle Vernon’s attitude that I never figured out. Why was he so angry? I mean, I know he was forced to raise a child that wasn’t his, but he didn’t have the personal losses that Aunt Petunia did.”
“Well, this is only a guess, but I’d bet he was angry because his wife was angry,” Ginny said simply, as she took my hand. “They wanted nothing to do with the magical world, with them being Muggles and all. And here you were, left for them to take care of, after Petunia suffered such devastating losses. And you were a wizard. They had to know you’d have magical abilities. After that letter Dumbledore left them explaining everything? They knew; and I bet they were frightened to a point. What happened if the blood protection didn’t work? They were sitting targets for the very thing that they feared the most.”
Ginny paused, squeezing my hand tightly. “You know how angry I get when anyone does anything to you? Well, I reckon that’s why Vernon was as angry and as hateful as he was. Look at all that Petunia lost at the hands of magic, and now they were faced with raising a magical nephew. I’m certain Vernon was angry for her.” Looking into my eyes, Ginny continued, “But, it still didn’t give them the right to treat you as horribly as they did. You had no control over the situation. You do know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, love, I know.” I sighed and thought to myself how my past will probably never be completely resolved with the Dursleys. Squeezing my wife’s hand, I said, “Let’s see what else is in this trunk.”
I pulled out more papers. Scanning the top item, I said, "There are more letters and articles -- here's another letter here from Dumbledore with what looks like my parents’ death notices from the Daily Prophet.” I paused a moment to ruffle through the rest of the stack. “And these are a few letters from my mum to Petunia!”
“Oh my! Letters from your mum? What do they say?” Ginny asked, as she moved closer to get a better look.
I scanned the letters quickly. The top letter was on parchment and dated 1 October 1971 from Hogwarts. "This one was written about a month after mum probably started Hogwarts. Listen to this:”
“’1 October 1971
‘I hope you're still not angry with me for being a witch and going off to school at Hogwarts. I really like it here. I have lots of new friends, and I was sorted in Gryffindor House. There are four houses and Gryffindor is for those who are supposed to be brave. I really wonder if they sorted me into the wrong house -- I've never been brave in my life! I always relied on you, Petunia, to fight my battles in school when everyone made fun of me because of the odd things that happened. You were always there for me, sis, when things went wrong. You were my best friend, and I miss you.
‘By now, term has started for you too, and I hope that school is going well. My classes are quite interesting, and I’m learning loads about magic and its history. I hope when I come home for holiday that we can talk and catch up.
‘Write to me soon, okay? Just tell the owl that brought this letter to hang around or come back on a specific day to take your letter to me. These owls are quite brilliant creatures. They carry all our post and they just “know” where to go and who to go to. Brilliant.
“And here’s another one,” I said, shifting the letters in my hand.
‘I haven’t heard from you, so I’m wondering if you’re still upset that I went off to Hogwarts. Please write me. I miss hearing from you. The owl is quite friendly, and won’t hurt you while you attach the letter to her leg. I’ve included an owl treat in this letter so you have something to give her while she stands there waiting for you.
‘I hope you are doing okay at school.
I scanned through the rest of the letters, and realize they are all pretty much the same – Mum begging Aunt Petunia to write to her. Sad, really – that my mum’s own sister couldn’t find it in herself to write to her only sister, who clearly missed her. I handed the letters over to Ginny and looked at the death notices that were written about my parents:
James Potter, 1960-1981
Beloved husband of the late Lily Potter, and son of Charles and Evelyn Potter, both deceased. Survived by son, Harry, of Godric’s Hollow. Found dead in the remains of his home on 31 October 1981. Cause of death appears to be a curse cast by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Funeral services and burial pending.
Lily Potter, 1960-1981
Beloved wife of the late James Potter, mother of Harry, and daughter of William and Mary Evans, both deceased. Survived by son, Harry, of Godric’s Hollow and sister, Petunia, of Little Whinging. Found dead in the remains of her home on 31 October 1981. Cause of death appears to be a curse cast by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Funeral services and burial pending.
Attached to these two obituaries was a letter from Dumbledore, again reiterating the importance of the blood bond, and the reasons that Petunia was to take me in. A large front page article from the Daily Prophet, dated 1 November 1981, was also attached with the headline that screamed:
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Defeated by Infant Boy in Godric’s Hollow
It appears that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was defeated last night in Godric’s Hollow by the infant son of James and Lily Potter. While both James and Lily perished at the hands of You-Know-Who and their house was destroyed, their small son, Harry, somehow survived. It is rumoured that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named died in his attempt to kill the young Mr. Potter. At this time, the whereabouts of the young boy is a closely guarded secret, and the remains of You-Know-Who have not been found….
The article continued on, but I didn’t finish it. I passed it to Ginny, as I reached into the trunk once again.
More papers. This time the stack I pulled out included two more letters from Mum – clipped together – one asking Petunia to be present when she married my dad, and one announcing my birth with a Muggle picture of me. Both were on parchment, but were in envelopes and had been mailed the Muggle way – with a stamp and by the Muggle postman. When Mum finished school, she must have resorted to Muggle ways to try to get Petunia to respond to her. There were no other letters from Mum in the trunk. She either gave up on Petunia or Petunia stopped saving them – I’ll never know which.
The final letter on the bottom of the stack was Mum’s first letter from Hogwarts. Puzzled, I passed it to Ginny, who stared at it. “Why in the world would Petunia have this?” I asked my wife.
“Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe she took it when your grandparents died.” Ginny said, handing it back.
I began placing the items back into the trunk, when I realized there was one other thing that was in the bottom corner of the trunk. It was a small, white box that clearly resembled a box from a jeweller. Wrapped around the box was a note:
To be given to Lily upon my death. An emerald – to match her lovely eyes.
I opened the ring box and inside was a lovely emerald ring. I drew in a sharp breath, staring at its mesmerising beauty. The emerald was large and oval in shape. It was set in gold, with small diamond baguettes set on either side. I removed the ring from the box, and held it up for Ginny to see. She too, drew in a breath at the beauty of the ring.
“Whose is that?” Ginny asked, as she looked at the ring.
“It belonged to my grandmother. There’s a note. Here.” I passed her the note and continued to stare at the ring. This was part of my past. A connection I never had. All these things were part of me. The ring, the letters, the photographs, the book, the blanket. All these things were my history.
“It’s beautiful, Harry. What a wonderful find,” Ginny said, as she took the ring from me to look at it closer.
“Well, I’m certain that Dudley didn’t know that was in there, or he would have found a way into that trunk. I’m sort of surprised that Petunia didn’t keep it for herself instead of putting it into this chest.” I shook my head. The Dursleys were still doing things that totally amazed me and I hadn’t had contact with them in over six years.
I began putting the letters back in the chest. I placed everything back in there, except for the ring, for safe-keeping until I could find a proper place to put my treasures. As I started to shut the lid, Ginny handed me the ring, and said, “Here, you forgot this.”
I continued to shut it, and took the ring. Looking at it again, I shook my head. “No, I didn’t forget it. I think this ring needs to find a home on a proper finger.”
I took my wife’s right hand, and slid the ring on her third finger. It was a perfect fit, as if it was made for her. As she looked at me in amazement and tried to speak, I placed a finger on her lips. “Shhh. Now, you know I can’t wear a woman’s ring, and I can’t think of anyone else that I would want to wear it. You are my wife; you are my life; you are my love; you are my family. This belongs to you as much as it does to me. I want you to wear it. It symbolizes us and where I’ve come from and where we’re going. One day, we’ll leave it our daughter or son as a family heirloom. But it deserves to be enjoyed, and I think my mum and grandmum would have wanted you to wear it.”
My wife looked at me with her warm, chocolate-brown eyes, now brimming with tears. I squeezed her hand as I reached over to hug and kiss her. Life has a way of throwing everyone curves. I never would have thought my life could get any richer than it was the day I married Ginny. But here, in the parlour of our home, I had received a gift from my past that I never dreamt I would get nor did I expect anything like this from the Dursleys. Here in my parlour, I understood how important certain people have been in my life, whether I realized it or not and whether I ever knew them or not. Here I realized that even though Petunia despised me, she left me a gift that was the greatest thing I could have had from her. The gift of my past. My past with the Dursleys was not happy. The gift I received that day on my front porch however, helped me to reconstruct a bit more of my history than I’ve ever been able to have. And for that, I can be thankful to my aunt – not for her treatment, but because she shared with me a bit of my mum.
A/N: Wow! It’s been a LONG time since I wrote anything. This piece was certainly made better by the four friends who helped pre-beta it. Julie, Jen, Michele and Michael, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking your time to make this the short story that it is. It is better because of your efforts. Special thanks to Jen who took time to help with the Latin in the revealing spell.